|Into The Light
by Sheila O'Neil-Farrow
Twilight, the hour of shadows; the eyes so easily deceived. My breath came faster, more shallow. Returning from walking, my weary feet could only stumble on the rough track. How sudden optimism deserts the days of winter, once the timid sunstreaks leave the sky! Downward then I strode, but clumsily, and just as drearily my spirit hurtled earthward. No stone would ever mark the spot, where my heart finally sank into the weeds, that framed the track. With fervent, upward tread I'd faced the morning. My song as I went, mingled with the air and echoed from the grim, grey-slated quarry workings, bringing unaccustomed cheer. But the flight of happiness, once it lifts off, is swift. Now the track down, called to me to reach it's end. Ears acute to every sound, with fear enwrapped, I stumbled, but more blind with each foot tread. To gain a deeper breath, I paused. My wild eyes took in, amongst the bedraggled hedge, a shape. Fancy flew to searching in my mind. What manner of being hid but beckoned forth, a finger gnarled and thin, and crooked in calling? I consented to the plea from the huddled form, some outer force taking over my very will. My step no longer laboured , but more fleet, I trampled through the roughness of the bare, dead branches, revealed stones. The bulbous form of a long-tailed rat, brought shudders to my bones, as it sprang to shelter in the stone wall. Dark now, and the finger stood out stark and unrelenting in it's urgency. Into the earth, then I fell with never a shout or murmur in my plight. The dankest, foulest hell-hole of a pit enclosed me round. Then on my feet, I screamed. But no sound came. Staring across the dark, I saw the finger beckoned still. The nail was long and tapered silver. Unable to resist, I stepped towards the sparkling jewel and as I ventured forth there came the sound of laughter; tinkling, high, a fairy sound. So strange, all fear dispersed. Two steps, and then before my face, quite sudden, as though a curtain fell, came snakes as if suspended from a rail up high. Long, short, twisted, straight, silver, gold, patterned , plain; all writhing like a screen before my outraged gaze. Short-lived the courage which just before I'd felt! With soundless scream I then broke forth and through the curtain still could see the silvered finger entreating through that hideous gloom. Accustomed as I was to seeking air, the clearer, the purer that air, the easier my soul, I felt such choking tightness in my throat, that panic gripped me so that I might there expire. The slimy curtain, then, did jerk and slide, as in some awful, frenzied, fearful dance. The silver talon glittered even more and I could not ignore its tremulous shine. Into that sordid hovel, then did sound the fairy laughter, harp- like, flute-like, rising, falling, calling. It seemed the blessed hillside air filled up my lungs, though from where it came, I had no knowing. For in all my life no place could ever match this evil hole into which some force had seen fit to lead me. As long as the fairies made their song, then I could breathe and so I followed where the sound came forth. With whispering hiss, the screen which barred my way, then swung and with an even glide, slid back against the grey-green danken walls, some to my left and some towards my right. The way was clear and so I ventured past the frieze of dangling fear.
With sudden stop the sound no longer came. There was a silence, but silence I could feel. It pressed about my head and numbed my mind, The thickness of the dark, oppressive round me, so I could only cringe, my arms across my chest. How long the silence was, I could not tell. And then, as if from sleep, I woke, all crouched beside a wall where small bats slept. So many bats and all with quivering wings, their faces
wizened and on the verge of waking. Beneath my feet, when I then stretched to stand, their foul droppings squelched and stank. Eyes wide, I peered into the eerie dark, and hoped for light to come, that I might see what other horrors lay in wait. For I was sure that terror was my fate. I looked back the way I'd come, breath churning. The curtain, closed again, came into my vision then The writhing reptiles, shining through the night that was this place. I knew that I would have to go onward. Impossible, the thought to retrace my steps. Deserted by the fairy sounds, all I could hear now was the sudden drip of water and felt the strike of cold air around my face. The gleaming, jewelled finger then I saw, still crooked, still beckoning. I stepped into the darkness glad to find that the ground had turned to hardest rock, then I slipped. For there was slime, so green, in patches, and then cool, green moss. Silver the jewel against the purple rocks; a backdrop for emerald water in a pool. Within a nook, then caught my sight, an apple tree with waxen apples and leaves which bent to drink. The finger hovered but stayed against the rocks and glittered ever brighter. I called out. I'd found my voice.
"Who are you?" not once but many times, the echo thrilling all around the cave. For so it was, a cave with myriad colours in the stones.
And then I saw the hovering finger stop. So still it stood most upright, as in warning. I held my breath and then let out a sigh. The silver grew till it became a spear. With swishing speed, it reached the highest height and caused a fissure in the ceiling. With sickening crack I heard the opening and the brightest gleam of light shone in my eyes. With fever, then, I viewed the towering walls, and felt my feet as rooted in the earth. The vault above my head was high, so high, I strained to see the top, but could not.
Against the rock face, the shimmering spear still shone, immobile, pointing up with tantalising gleam. An ache of deepest weariness then gripped the whole of me and sitting I surveyed the watery depths. The apples, still as death, hung on the boughs, but searching leaves reached, making ripples as they drank. Luxurious tears, then rained upon my cheeks and spilled where ivy crept and trailed her stems. With dread, I knew that I had lost my sack of food. There was a little left after my days wanderings. But, it was water, most of all I craved, as thirst gripped me and would not be stilled, until I tasted, cool within my throat, the nectar of the spring, near which I sat. The apples too, were tempting and nearby. The waxy skin all golden, tinged with rose. They held a liquor sweet, beneath that skin. Leeward of the spear's streak, I saw a stone, flat and firm, beside the apple bough. Unsteadily, I rose and made to stand and grasp an apple, large and juicy, well within my reach. I bit into the flesh and felt its pulp and juice spill down my chin. The succulence seeped into my throat. I lay stretched, reclined, upon the surface of the stone and savoured every morsel on my tongue. Amid the stillness, then, I turned and stomach-prone, put down my head into the sparkling deep, and lapped, as would a dog, until the thirst, sated and dispelled, no longer tortured me. Never had water, plain, clear and pure, tasted so sweet! Never before, had the simple apple, growing free, so fulfilled my restless, craving need. From out the emerald deep, with seething surge, then sprang a foaming fountain, splurging, spraying. I yelped as coldness soaked my shirt, my thick woollen garb, saturated, till I stood within a pool upon the stone. The water trickled into the smallest crevices, until then invisible, and slewed across the sides into the pool. I saw then, on the lake, that lilies wept. Their sleek white petals drooped instead of spread and crimson tears oozed from centre buds. Then slumbering poppies, close against the wall, sighed in their sleep. I sat amongst them and dust swept over my eyes. I felt some peace. As in a dream, as I looked up, then came a fall of rose petals, their blushes strewn around my shoulders and my feet. Lulling warm air eased upwards through the stone. It soothed and spread, made me completely dry. It was as if some sweetness with warm breath, had found me, comfort brought. The once ferocious fountain, now, with playful flow, sparkled with gentle, dreamful ease and spoke to me. It was as if some sweet minstrel sang, with whispering song.
"The light, seek the fight" the voice was like a silvery bell. I rose. I stood, my face upturned.
The vault was so vast, the centre bathed in light. The glare was fierce. It burned into my eyes.
The bell-like tones then echoed once again, "Towards the light, climb up!"
I tried, and tried again, to find some clinging hold, and pressed my fingers onto unyielding stone. They slid and slid until I knew that though I tried, I could not hope to scale so sheer a wall alone. Stoically, with sweating brow, I faced the rock and asked with all my might, for some sweet power to help me reach my goal. However slow the progress, I would try. However hard the journey, I would trust.
It was then, as if on wings, I lifted up. I floated through the draught, the upward swell. Skeins of coloured rope fell to my grasp, so many ropes all swaying in the breeze, which wafted softer, the higher up I came. The nearest one was gold and with smoothest flight, lifted me, till joy thrummed in my head. I clamped my fingers firmly, felt the pull. Squinting, I saw that I was surrounded then by light, so warm, an incandescence, incense sweet, and minstrel strains, gloriously pure, suffused, enveloped me, such peace!
Knuckling my eyes, I rubbed. Then shook my head, and saw in inky skies with uplifted eyes, the glittering stars. A slinking fox, bright-eyed, fixed his gaze on me, one paw aloft. We stared. Then with a dry-stick sound, those nimble feet carried his sleekness, but with brush a-quiver, until he found the welcoming undergrowth; that brush, the last remaining sight of him.
The track was to my left. The moonlight washed it white. And on a branch, slung low, my sack, just waiting. Huddled in a hollow made by hills, the ochre lights from the drowsy village, shone through the night.
An echo in my head sang,
"Seek the light!" resounding on the tresses of the breeze.
With smiling heart, I knew henceforth, I would, and never more allow the dark, black thoughts to enter in.
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